There are a lot of questions about how Mormons worship. Mormons are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They prefer to be called Latter-day Saints, but their church is also frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church.” This mix up with names gets to be confusing, because there are radical groups which have broken off from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who also refer to themselves as “Mormons,” but who practice and believe very different things than Latter-day Saints do.
The most important thing to understand about Mormon worship is that they recognize Jesus Christ as their Savior. Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) are often accused of not being Christian because they do not hold to the traditional Christian creeds. This is because the creeds were created by men two hundred years after Christ’s ascension into heaven. The fulness of the gospel had already been lost when the keys of the priesthood were lost with the Apostles. Just because Latter-day Saints do not accept the creeds as doctrine does not mean that they do not recognize Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.
Mormon doctrine teaches that faithful Latter-day Saints should model their personal lives after the Savior’s life. This means that Mormon worship entails a great deal more than just going to church on Sunday. Mormonism is truly a way of life.
Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) meet each Sunday for a block of three hours. The most important meeting is Sacrament meeting. During this 70-minute meeting, the Sacrament (Eucharist or Communion) is blessed and passed to the congregation. Traditionally, bread and water are used in this ordinance, though in times when one of those things is not available, other items can be used instead (“Prepare for the Days of Tribulation,” Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, November 1980). Water is generally used rather than the wine that is traditional in other Christian denominations because Latter-day Saints do not drink alcohol. The bread is blessed and passed first, then the water. Visitors who have not been baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not encouraged to take the Sacrament, because the ordinance is seen as a renewing of one’s baptismal covenants. If a person has not been baptized, he has not covenants to renew.
After the Sacrament has been passed, the balance of the meeting typically consists of speakers from the ward (congregation) who have been invited by the bishopric (local ecclesiastical leaders) to speak on a certain topic. All Mormon clergy is lay clergy. This means they are everyday people who have separate careers. They serve voluntarily in their local congregations when asked to by their leaders, and they are not compensated, though they are certainly blessed for their service. This is a unique aspect of Mormon worship.
Once a month, the congregation has a Fast Sunday. This is a day set aside for members to fast from two consecutive meals. They are encouraged to seek guidance through prayer during this time for any personal issue, or sometimes for a member of their ward. The money that a family or individual would have spent on those two meals is typically donated to the bishopric, who then decides how to use those funds. If there are people in the ward who need financial help, the funds are used for that. If the funds donated exceed the need, the balance is sent on to Church headquarters to be redistributed as needed. Mormon worship shows how much the community cares about those in need. On Fast Sundays, special meetings are held during Sacrament meeting. Rather than having speakers assigned to share their thoughts on a particular gospel topic, anyone from the congregation may stand and bear personal testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The two other meetings held on Sundays for Mormon worship are 40–50 minutes each. During Sunday school, class members learn more about specific gospel principles. The Mormon canon consists of four books of scripture: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelation), and the Pearl of Great Price (a collection of ancient scripture translated or revealed in modern day). Each year, the Sunday school lessons will focus on a book of scripture. The Old and New Testaments are taken separately, and the Pearl of Great Price is combined with the Old Testament. This means that every four years, the whole canon is studied: Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. Sunday school classes are divided by ages for children with teachers for each class, and the adults meet together.
During the last block of meetings, the men and women separate and the children have a meeting together. The men’s meeting is called Priesthood; the women’s is Relief Society. The young men and young women (ages 12–17) meet as separate groups, and the children under age 12 meet together in Primary.
No matter which class a person is in, he or she is taught the gospel. Members of the ward discuss gospel topics and learn from each other about how these things are relevant in our daily lives and how we can apply gospel principles. Mormon worship is about focusing on the Savior and His atonement for repentance, forgiveness, and redemption. We all need each other and should reach out in service to all those who stand in need.
Many have used the existence of evil and suffering in the world as reason to disbelieve in God. They envision a God who controls all aspects of life in order to prevent any sort of suffering, evil, or unhappiness. Mormons (as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often nicknamed or misnamed) understand that such a God would render life on Earth meaningless, empty, and devoid of opportunities to grow, learn, and overcome.
For Mormons, the explanation for the why evil and suffering exit is found within the explanation of the purpose of life. Mormons believe life began before birth, when God created our spirits. We stayed with Him in a premortal existence for a while, and during that time we developed our personalities and character. We knew God’s plan for us and had time to think about whether or not we wanted to be a part of that plan.
The plan required us to come to Earth for the next stage of our eternal progression. In this stage, we would gain a body, a family, and an opportunity to have new experiences. Since we wouldn’t remember our life before Earth—because that would interfere with the need to develop faith—we would need to seek out and find God, Jesus Christ, and the gospel. We would have help, of course, in the form of the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost. From time to time, small reminders of our past or confirmations of truth would be offered to those willing to listen. For those who lived at a time when the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was on the earth, they would also be able to accept or reject that gospel.
What does all this have to do with evil and suffering in the world? Another gift God gave us is that of agency—the right to choose for ourselves, make our own decisions. We had this agency before we were born and used it to choose whether to come to earth or to follow Satan from the beginning. We are expected to use our time on this earth to have experiences and make choices that will impact our eternal lives. We can choose our actions—choose good or evil, choose obedience or disobedience—but we cannot choose the consequences of our actions. Prior to birth, we had the opportunity to choose God or Satan. Those who came to Earth are those who chose God. We have agency today. We continue to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, God and Satan.
One of the challenges of agency is that while we can choose our actions, we can’t choose who the consequences impact. This means that sometimes innocent people suffer because of the choices of others. There is no way to avoid this. In order to prevent all evil and suffering, we would have to come to Earth as puppets, with our every action and thought controlled. This is what Satan wanted for us. He wanted us to be entirely controlled in order to make sure everyone was “saved,” but of course, that couldn’t save us, since salvation must be freely chosen. We rejected Satan’s idea, which was the result of his own selfishness and desire for power, since it came with a price tag that required us to reject God and replace Him with Satan. And so, we have evil and suffering in the world today, because we were wisely unwilling to sacrifice agency.
Agency, while it has the potential to bring suffering, also has the potential to bring joy and growth. We learn from our experiences, our choices, and our mistakes. Many who have experienced great trials in life have leveraged those trials to become more than they ever imagined they could be. They’ve found joy despite their suffering and in the growth that came when they chose to face trials with joy, faith, and hope.
Mormons see the world from an eternal perspective. This life is only a very small part of an eternal life. Everything we become goes with us when we die, and so the trials and experiences we have will affect who we are in the next life as well. Our trials are often calculated to give us just the experiences we need to grow and meet our potential. That doesn’t mean God creates suffering and trials, but He allows them to happen, sometimes to protect the concept of agency and sometimes because He knows we can, if we choose, use the trial to strengthen us and make us more than we would have been without the trial. Of course, we can also choose to spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves because of our trials, but that is our choice. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our attitudes toward those events.
We also cause some of our own trials. We all make foolish choices in life and those choices sometimes cause us trouble—and sometimes also cause others to suffer. We need experiences and trials, but we don’t need to have more than necessary. The ones we cause ourselves through our poor choices are generally unnecessary, but even these can be used for our good if we repent and call upon the healing power of the atonement of Jesus Christ.
There is evil and suffering in the world because this is a temporal existence—imperfect and separated from God. People choose evil and that affects others. Imperfection in this world causes suffering through myriad ways: disease, death, etc. God intended life to be joyful, and most often, whether or not it is joyful will be up to us. He can help us cope with trials and suffering and can make the best out of bad situations.
The Bible is widely accepted by many people as the source of Christian faiths, and it contains the word of God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called the Mormon Church by some people), also believes in the teachings found in the Bible. This book is of great value to all people and it should be found in every home, and read by families and individuals around the world.
The Bible contains teachings about the Lord Jesus Christ, His life, His work and ministry, His gospel, His Atonement, and prophecies concerning His second coming, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. For example, the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the Lord Jesus Christ about seven centuries before His coming and illustrated what would happen in His life and the things that He would do for His people.
Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Old Testament, Isaiah 53:1-5).
The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word ‘ta biblia’ meaning “the books.” (See Bible Dictionary, Bible). The Bible does not contain just one book but it’s like a library of books. For centuries many prophets have contributed to it, and it was later selectively compiled into one single book. However, many wicked men had altered and omitted some of the most precious doctrines like the true nature of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and the nature of the Holy Ghost. Today, the LDS Church uses the King James Version of the Bible, as it is nearest to the truth.
Underneath it all, Bible has survived the harshness of the past. That is why all must express gratitude to God for giving us this precious book, which contains significant doctrines for our salvation. The Bible does not stand alone in testifying of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said, “…In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (New Testament, 2 Corinthians 13:1).
The Book of Mormon is another testament of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it also contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel. It helps the Bible in establishing its truths and acts as a second witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon never contradicts the Bible, but rather it clarifies some obscure passages in the Bible.
The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come (Book of Mormon, Introduction).
Mormons believe the following about the biblical Christ:
- That all the ancient prophets knew of and prophesied of the coming of Christ, and they understood and taught that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. That clear references to this fact are missing from the Old Testament proves that plain and precious truths have been taken from the original record.
- That Christ was born of Mary in Bethlehem in a stable, that He grew up in Nazareth, having no need to be taught, and that He learned from God grace by grace.
- That Christ began His ministry around age thirty, was baptized by John the Baptist, taught His true gospel, called apostles and seventies, performed many miracles.
- That Christ took upon Himself the sorrows and sins of all in Gethsemane, and…
- That Christ was crucified for our sins (the atonement) and rose the third day, the first-fruits of the resurrection.
- Christ’s atonement for our sins took care of the sins of Adam, guaranteed resurrection for all, enable salvation for most, and exaltation for those who would come unto Him, repent, and keep His commandments.
- That Christ was resurrected and is still resurrected, having appeared unto many, including His apostles in the Holy Land, the Book of Mormon peoples, and the Ten Lost Tribes (as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
- That Christ did only the will of His Father, and that He and His Father are separate beings, who, along with the Holy Ghost (a personage of spirit) are one in purpose.
Therefore, if one says that he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ and accepts His teachings found in the Bible with all his heart, might, mind, and strength, he should also believe in the teachings found in the Book of Mormon. For there is no way all of us can know the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ without reading, pondering, and applying those precious scriptures revealed by God.
1) Old Testament, Isaiah 53:1-5
2) See Bible Dictionary, Bible
3) New Testament, 2 Corinthians 13:1
4) Book of Mormon, Introduction
The 13th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states:
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—we believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
What is this hope that is spoken of? The dictionary defines hope as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. However, in a day and hour when there seems to be so much chaos and confusion going on in the world, the idea of there being any real hope can seem obscure. Regardless of how dismal and hopeless things may appear to be on the surface, there is still hope, and that hope can only be found in its true source, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Psalm 33:18-19 are recorded these words, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” In Psalm 43:5 the Psalmist also gives this calm assurance, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
Many people have a tendency to put their trust and confidence in a lot of frivolous things such as bank accounts, careers, fancy cars, expensive homes, and the like, hoping that these material things will bring them lasting joy and happiness, but more times than not they discover that what they have is really a false sense of hope that never brings about any true or lasting satisfaction. The admonition given by the Prophet Jeremiah as recorded in Jeremiah 17:5-8 is befitting of these modern times:
Thus saith the Lord; cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Only hope that is rooted in the Lord Jesus Christ is lasting hope. In the midst of all hopelessness and despair, and at times when nights seem their darkest, it is that lasting hope that sustains a person and gives him reassuring peace and comfort. It is that lasting hope that strengthens a person’s faith and gives him the courage to press forward in spite of any adversity that he may encounter.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in his message titled The Infinite Power of Hope, found in the November 2008 issue of the Ensign magazine, recounts this story from his youth of how his mother put her faith and hope into action:
Toward the end of World War II, my father was drafted into the German army and sent to the western front, leaving my mother alone to care for our family. Though I was only three years old, I can still remember this time of fear and hunger. We lived in Czechoslovakia, and with every passing day, the war came nearer and the danger grew greater.
Finally, during the cold winter of 1944, my mother decided to flee to Germany, where her parents were living. She bundled us up and somehow managed to get us on one of the last refugee trains heading west. Traveling during that time was dangerous. Everywhere we went, the sound of explosions, the stressed faces, and ever-present hunger reminded us that we were in a war zone.
Along the way the train stopped occasionally to get supplies. One night during one of these stops, my mother hurried out of the train to search for some food for her four children. When she returned, to her great horror, the train and her children were gone!
She was weighed down with worry; desperate prayers filled her heart. She frantically searched the large and dark train station, urgently crisscrossing the numerous tracks while hoping against hope that the train had not already departed.
Perhaps I will never know all that went through my mother’s heart and mind on that black night as she searched through a grim railroad station for her lost children. That she was terrified, I have no doubt. I am certain it crossed her mind that if she did not find this train, she might never see her children again. I know with certainty: her faith overcame her fear, and her hope overcame her despair. She was not a woman who would sit and bemoan tragedy. She moved. She put her faith and hopes into action.
And so she ran from track to track and from train to train until she finally found our train. It had been moved to a remote area of the station. There, at last, she found her children again.
Like President Uchtdorf’s mother, regardless of the trials that a person may face in life, he must continually put his faith and hope into action with the knowledge that the Savior will never leave or forsake him, and no matter what the outcome, everything will be alright. In the words of the Apostle Paul, a person should always be, “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Paul also taught the following as recorded in Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
A part of enduring mortal life includes having to face trials, difficulties, afflictions, and adversities. At times it may seem that the burdens of life are too much to bear and that all hope is gone. But, hope is not gone. The gospel of Jesus Christ allows a person to find peace, comfort, and hope in any circumstances. The Savior Himself has promised, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). A person might ask, “How can there be any peace and hope given the situation that I am in?” The answer to that question is that there can be peace and hope because His perfect love casts away all doubt and fears. (See 1 John 4:18).
From Christ we learn to be obedient, even when it is painful, as it was painful for Him in Gethsemane. We learn to serve others, even when it is inconvenient, as it certainly was “inconvenient” for Him on the cross of Golgotha. And we learn to trust in the love of God, even if we might feel God has forsaken us—for when we overcome through faith, these bitter and sorrowful moments in our lives can become like steps on Jacob’s ladder, leading us into the heavenly presence of God (see Gen. 28:12–13). (Elder Johann A. Wondra; “Finding Hope in Christ”; Ensign; December 2002.)
Real and lasting hope is rooted and centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. He is the Great Shepherd, the Great Provider, the Rock of all ages, and the Sustainer of life at this moment, and the Hope of all tomorrows. He gives this blessed promise, “For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee” (Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), 3 Nephi 22:10.)
Temples belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church of often misnamed the Mormon Church) seem mysterious to a good part of the world. Because admittance is limited to faithful Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”), many people of other faiths feel a suspicion of what must go on inside Mormon temples. However, the truth is that entrance is limited because these buildings are set apart and dedicated to the Lord. In Mormon doctrine, there is no more sacred place on the earth than a temple. It is literally the house of the Lord. Mormon scripture states that “no unclean thing shall be permitted to come into thy house [the temple] to pollute it” (Doctrine and Covenants 109:20). Thus, only those who are living the laws that God has set as the standard for entering His house are permitted to do so.
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am very grateful for Mormon temples. From the time I first went through to make personal and eternal covenants with God, I have returned frequently to feel again of the Spirit of the Lord. Whenever I go to the temple, I learn something more about my true relationship to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ.
Many times I have felt the Spirit touching my heart, soul, or mind, enlightening a principle here or testifying of another principle there. I learn line upon line, precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:10) the deeper doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
After a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone through a Mormon temple for the first time, he or she has made covenants with God to live a higher law or standards. These covenants are made only one time. However, Mormon doctrine teaches that the ordinances available in Mormon temples are essential for every individual’s exaltation. Because Latter-day Saints also believe that these ordinances are available only in this life, it is also part of Mormon doctrine that these ordinances must be performed vicariously for those who did not have the chance to receive these ordinances in life.
Any names submitted to a Mormon temple must be submitted by direct descendants of the people whose names are submitted. Other people can then help in completing the proxy ordinance work, but only family names should be submitted. This has caused a lot of controversy in the media, because it is easy for people who do not fully understand the principles behind this work to see this as taking away a deceased person’s free will, performing these ordinances whether that person wants to accept them or not. The doctrine in this area is clear: free will is an eternal principle. No one can be baptized against his or her will. When these ordinances are performed by proxy, it is with the understanding that those people still have the freedom to accept or reject those ordinances. However, before those ordinances were performed by proxy, there was no choice at all available to the deceased.
Serving in a Mormon temple is one of the most selfless acts of service a person can perform in this life. Strictly speaking, this service does not benefit the giver of service in anyway. They are simply giving of their time to perform these ordinances so that others may have the choice of accepting or rejecting this work. Now, anyone who has had the privilege to perform these ordinances, as I have been blessed to do, realizes that there certainly are blessings for this service. That time I mentioned earlier, spent close to the Spirit offers cleansing, teaching, and comfort. This does not, in my opinion, make the service any less selfless, but I want to make it clear that any time spent in a Mormon temple will inevitably result in a person feeling closer to the Savior, whether that person is there for him- or herself or to do proxy work for someone else.
As a Latter-day Saint (“Mormon”), I feel so blessed to be able to attend Mormon temples. My time there continues to testify to me that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He is the literal Son of God, who atoned for the sins of the world. He gave His life to overcome the power of the grave, that each of us could be resurrected. I know that He rose from the grave and that He lives, on the right hand of God, today. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to bring this knowledge to those who have not yet been blessed to receive it.
The headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church” by the media, is located in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States. If you visit there, you will see a strikingly beautiful statue of Jesus Christ. The statue, which is nearly two stories tall, is visible through a large plate-glass window that looks out upon Temple Square, where the Salt Lake Mormon Temple and the Mormon Tabernacle are. The statue is carved from white marble. In it, the Savior is depicted in the attitude of stretching forth His hands and looking down in love on the visitors who gather below. His hands and feet bear the marks of the nails of His crucifixion; the mark of the sword can be seen in His side. Behind Him, a large mural depicts the creation of the universe.
Mormons are Christians
Mormons are Christians. They worship the Lord Jesus Christ; He is the center of their lives and their religion. Unlike other Christian religions, however, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not begin as an offshoot of the Catholic Church. Rather, the original Christian Church as it was organized by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry has been directly restored to earth by heavenly messengers to the founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. Mormons worship God in the same way the ancient Christians did. They follow the original doctrines of Christ, just as the early saints did. That is why the Church is named “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Mormons Believe that Jesus Christ Created the World
Mormon doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ created the earth. The God of the Old Testament, who formed the earth and seas, the plants and animals, and all human beings in His own image, is Jesus Christ. The statue of Jesus in Salt Lake City is shown in front of a painting of the universe to show that Christ is the Creator. We are the spirit children of God. God the Father planned from the beginning, before the world was made, to send us to earth so that we might gain a mortal body and choose for ourselves to follow Him. Knowing we would sin, He also planned to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to atone for our sins. Jesus Christ created the earth according to God’s plan, taught the prophets of the Old Testament about His coming and His commandments, and then came to earth to do His Father’s will.
Jesus Christ was the Only Begotten Son of God the Father on the earth. We are all God’s spirit children, but Jesus was His physical child as well, the Son of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. Mormons believe in the virgin birth, and that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost. Because He was both mortal and immortal, Jesus had power over death. He was able to lay His life down and take it again, thus breaking the bands of death that bind all mortals.
Mormons Strive to Follow Christ’s Example
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus set the perfect example for us to follow. He was baptized and kept all of God’s commandments; He healed the sick and relieved suffering; He spoke the truth; He loved all of God’s children. Mormons strive to do what the Savior did every day of their lives, and want to be His disciples. Jesus Himself asked His disciples to follow Him by doing as He did:
For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:15).
No matter how hard we try to follow Christ, everyone who has ever lived on earth, except for Jesus Christ, has sinned. Yet God has said that no unclean thing can enter His presence. Mormons believe that the only way we can return to live with God again is through the atonement of Jesus Christ. We cannot pay the price for our own sins. But Jesus, who lived a perfect life, could pay that price for us. In the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, He took upon Himself the burden of our sins and sufferings:
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men (from The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 19, verses 16-19).
Because Jesus suffered for our sins, we can repent and be made clean again. We must strive with all our might to keep God’s commandments. When we sin, we must confess our sins to God and to those we have wronged, and seek to repair the damage we have done. We ask God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, for forgiveness. After we have forsaken our sins and done all we can do, then, through the power of Jesus’s atonement, our sins will be forgiven.
Mormons believe in the literal resurrection of our physical bodies. When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, death came upon all mankind. After His crucifixion, the Savior was resurrected from the dead, and broke the bands of death so that all men and women will be resurrected. Paul taught the Corinthians that:
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
Jesus’s physical body was resurrected as a perfect, immortal physical body to house His immortal spirit. We, too, will each be resurrected, and each possess our own immortal physical body throughout all eternity.
Jesus Christ Leads His Church Today
Just as He spoke to prophets before His advent on earth, Jesus Christ continues to lead His Church today. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are living prophets and apostles. They receive revelation from Jesus Christ to help guide us in the modern world. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ has always spoken to His followers in every age of the world, and that He will always continue to do so. He inspires those who lead the Church, so they can teach the truth and guide the Church in the way it should go.
He will also speak to us as individuals if we have faith in Him, and if are willing to listen and do what He asks us to do. God loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to atone for our sins. Christ loves us so much that He gave His life for us. There is no peace greater than Christ’s peace, and no love greater than His love. If we love Him in return, and seek Him, He will guide us in our individual lives. If we follow Him, we will find joy in His love in this life, and eternal life in the world to come.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes referred to as the “Mormon Church” by the media, are well-known for their interest in genealogy. Mormons actively research information about their ancestors, and keep records themselves to pass on to their children. In Mormon temples, members of the Church perform ordinances, such as baptism for the dead, for their ancestors, making it possible for those who have passed on to accept and follow the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Mormon Genealogical Research
Ever since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830, members have actively sought information about their ancestors. One of the main missions of the Church is to work toward the fulfillment of the following scripture, which was repeated several times by an angel to the young Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, in 1823:
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6).
Mormons turn their hearts to their fathers by learning as much as they can about them. They collect information such as important dates, locations, names of family members, and stories from their ancestors’ lives, compiling histories and family trees to pass on to their children. Because of the Church’s long-term commitment to genealogical research, its resources are truly impressive. There are Church-sponsored databases available online at sites such as familysearch.org, where one can enter the name of an ancestor and see a compilation of results about that person from censuses, parish records, government records, and numerous other sources. An impressive library in Salt Lake City, Utah, in the United States, contains millions of books and microfilm records. Genealogical specialists are available at Church libraries, online, and at local Mormon family history centers throughout the world. Everyone, whether a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or not, is welcome to use the Church’s resources to seek out information about their ancestors.
Mormon Temple Work for the Dead
One reason that Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are so interested in genealogy is that they believe, like other Christians, that every human being must receive certain ordinances in order to be saved. An ordinance must be performed in the proper way, through proper priesthood authority, in order to be valid. Baptism is an example of an essential priesthood ordinance. Jesus made it abundantly clear that His followers were to be baptized for a remission of their sins. The early Apostles called upon all converts to Christianity to be baptized:
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).
In Mormon temples, Latter-day Saints are baptized for their ancestors who have passed away. Their ancestors then have the opportunity to accept or reject the baptism performed by proxy for them. Baptism for the dead was a common practice in the early Christian church, and is referred to in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 15:29. Other sacred ordinances are also performed for the dead in Mormon temples, such as sealing families together for eternity. Thus, Mormons believe that the ancestors they have come to know through genealogical research will be part of their lives forever.
Some news articles have focussed on the Mormon practices of genealogical and temple work for those who have died. It was brought to light that some members of the Church had violated church policy by submitting names and performing temple work for deceased individuals they were not related to, such as celebrities and Holocaust victims. The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has recently reiterated its long-standing policy that Mormons must only perform temple work for relatives. The text of a letter from the First Presidency to Church members was published in an article published in the LDS Church News on March 1, 2012:
We would like to reiterate the policies first stated in 1995 concerning the submission of names for proxy temple ordinances:
Our preeminent obligation is to seek out and identify our own ancestors. Those whose names are submitted for proxy temple ordinances should be related to the submitter.
Without exception, Church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims. If members do so, they may forfeit their New FamilySearch privileges. Other corrective action may also be taken.
It should be noted that Mormons believe that each individual, whether living or dead, has the final say in any ordinances performed by them or in their behalf. Temple ordinances performed for a deceased relative are only valid if that relative desires them and chooses to accept them.
It is important to know where we come from. We can be strengthened by the faith and courage of our ancestors, be inspired by their examples, and learn from their mistakes. Through genealogical research we come to realize that no matter who we are, we are never alone. Our actions affect not just ourselves, but generations before us and generations to come. Mormons feel a close bond with their ancestors, a bond forged through years of learning their ancestors’ names and stories. Everyone can use the genealogical resources provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by logging on to a website or visiting a local Mormon meetinghouse. You are invited to begin your search. It will provide many blessings to you and to your family.
As the “Mormon moment” extends into 2012, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life today released a groundbreaking new survey, the first ever published by a non-LDS research organization to focus exclusively on members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their beliefs, values, perceptions and political preferences.
Entitled “Mormons in America: Certain in Their Beliefs, Uncertain of Their Place in Society,” the survey was conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 16, 2011 among a national sample of 1,019 respondents who identified themselves as Mormons. The results validate a number of long-held stereotypes (most American Mormons are white, well-educated, politically conservative and religiously observant) while providing a few interesting surprises (care for the poor and needy is high on the list of LDS priorities, while drinking coffee and watching R-rated movies aren’t as taboo among the rank and file as you might think).
“While this survey comes amid a contentious election campaign, it is not solely or even chiefly about politics,” said Luis Lugo, Pew Research Center director, in the published survey’s preface. “Rather, we hope that it will contribute to a broader public understanding of Mormons and Mormonism at a time of great interest in both.”
For example, in one very interesting section of the new survey, respondents were asked several questions about what is essential to being a good Mormon. According to the survey, 80 percent said “believing Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ” is essential to being a good Mormon, 73 percent said “working to help the poor,” 51 percent said “regular Family Home Evenings,” 49 percent said “not drinking coffee and tea” and 32 percent said “not watching R-rated movies. Read more